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Hot ticket: Fiery foods show includes a chance to taste world’s hottest pepper

Whether your heat level is eye-watering hot or a mild kick to the taste buds the 29th National Fiery Foods & Barbecue Show has you covered with about 170 exhibitors.

Melinda's Habenero Pepper Sauce

Melinda’s Habenero Pepper Sauce. (Courtesy of Melindas Hot Sauce)

One of the leading hot sauce companies, Melinda’s is this year’s national hot sauce sponsor and will have its products at the show. Melinda’s is the 10th-best-selling hot sauce in the country, according to Fiery Foods & Barbecue show founder Dave DeWitt. The company was founded in 1989 by Greg and David Figueroa of New Orleans. Melinda’s focus is on the habenero pepper, and its line ranges from hot to its XXXXtra Reserve Hot Sauce.

“The Figueroa brothers have done more for the promotion of the habanero pepper than any other company,” DeWitt said in a news release. “They made the habanero a household word.”

The world’s hottest pepper, the Carolina Reaper, also will be at Fiery Foods. Puckerbutt Pepper Co., which produced that pepper, will be at the show exhibiting and giving tastings, DeWitt said.

“I don’t know how you would taste that,” he told the Journal. “They’ll be tasting on the ends of toothpicks, and that’s the way they’ll do it.”

Florida's Gator Hammock will bring its Gator Sauce to the 29th annual Fiery Foods & Barbecue Show

Florida’s Gator Hammock will bring its Gator Sauce to the 29th annual Fiery Foods & Barbecue Show. (Courtesy of Gator Hammock)

Another interesting exhibitor, Gator Hammock, will bring its Florida hot sauces.

“They make Southern-style hot sauces and other products,” DeWitt said. “The hammock is a piece of land that sticks out of the Everglades. It’s a piece of dry land, and that’s where the alligators go to sun themselves. That’s the origin of that term ‘hammock.’ ”

Chile Pepper Magazine, which DeWitt founded in 1987 in Albuquerque, will be on hand giving out copies and selling back issues. Several demonstrations also will be part of the show, including one by Greg Mays, the author of “New Mexico Cocktails.” At noon Saturday, Mays will do a presentation on New Mexicans who are producing different kinds of whiskeys, vodkas and other spirits throughout the state. At noon Sunday, tequila expert Jim Garcia will give a multimedia presentation, along with a tasting of some “really nice tequilas,” according to DeWitt. Premier Distributing Co. will hold a beer tasting.

This year, the show will include some hot competitions for a cause.

“Sandia Resort & Casino changed some of their policies for the better,” DeWitt said. “Before, we were not allowed to actually cook in the Eagle Room, so we kind of had to have a tent for all the chefs and all that stuff. So now we have the 505 Food Fights going on in the Eagle Room.”

South Carolina’s Puckerbutt Pepper Co. will bring its The Reaper hot sauce

South Carolina’s Puckerbutt Pepper Co. will bring its The Reaper hot sauce. (Courtesy of PuckerButt Pepper Co.)

The special edition 505 Food Fights is a charity event that will feature three competitions with two chefs per competition going head to head on Saturday, March 4. The six participating New Mexico chefs include 505 Food Fights Season 2 champ David Sellers of Street Food Institute, Fernando Ruiz of Santacafé and Carrie Eagle of Farm & Table, who are each $10,000 winners of the Food Network’s “Chopped.” The top score from Saturday will get a bye in the first round on Sunday, March 5. The chefs ranked two and three will battle it out, with the winner going up against the first-place winner from Saturday for the championship.

Each round is limited to 100 people who can watch. Tickets are $20 for one round of the 505 Food Fights and entry into the Fiery Foods & Barbecue Show. The fee includes a $10 donation to Project Lunchbox. Combo tickets can be purchased at 505foodfight.com.

“It benefits a project called Project Lunchbox,” DeWitt said. “The whole idea behind that is to alleviate the past-due (Albuquerque Public Schools) lunch fees that have accumulated in certain families. There’s about $40,000 in back lunch debts of families who have fallen behind in their elementary students’ lunch payments, so we’re trying to alleviate that as much as possible. We don’t think we’ll get rid of the entire $40,000 at this one event, but we’ll continue to do it until we get it paid off.”

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